THE AMERICANS ARE COMING!

Beam (Fellow Travelers, 1987) gets some rather obvious satirical mileage—but not many laughs—out of his second novel, this one about selling the American Way in a dusty corner of conquered Russia. In 1999, a post-Gorbachev Soviet Union fires the first shot of WW III, over in 20 minutes in a sort of real-life computer game with no casualties. The victorious US, headed by President Arnold Schwarzenegger, picks out the lackluster area of Uglich on the Volga for a model experiment in democracy. Put in charge is Martin Teasdale, undercover CIA agent who knows Russia, has a feeling for it, and takes up his task with good will. But he is stymied by the Russianness of the Russians, the Americanness of the Americans, and a host of scheming mischief-makers. His chief ally is the laid-back Melor (acronym of Marx, Engels, Lenin, October Revolution), his KGB counterpart. Among Teasdale's opponents are Dyermoyed, ousted party boss who runs against him in an election; Moronin, a young man hipped on revolutionary texts who takes to the hills with a ragtag army; and T. Makkro Fixx, American entrepreneur intent on using the populace for unethical experiments. Teasdale's main personal enemy appears to be his wife—a lazy, neofeminist virago who won't give him the time of day, let alone her body. The unlikely result of this soured union are two lively young daughters who take to Russia with zest. Besides having fun with the oil-and-water culture clash, Beam plays with the mergers he envisions down the road, creating such entities as the Lord and Ann Taylor store, Sonysonic telephone, BMVW car, and USA-Times newspaper. A mildly entertaining muddle that often relies too much on exaggeration, Mad magazine-fashion, to score its points about Russians and Americans.

Pub Date: July 13, 1991

ISBN: 0-312-05812-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1991

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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